Sonic Triggers: Led Zeppelin's “Fool In The Rain”

Like everyone else who has been changed unalterably by the spell of music, there are songs in my past that are indelibly attached to specific moments in my life.

I remember being 16 years old and picking up my friend at a bus station when Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” came on the radio. My friend and I both loved that song, but neither of us had any Pink Floyd albums at the time. This was back in the ‘90s, and, as was often the case, we were at the mercy of the local radio stations to play our favorite recordings. It was a moment of serendipity that sticks with me today — an example of the manic love you have as a teenager, when the entire back catalog of recorded music was yours to discover.

[jump] I also remember being a sophomore in college and hearing the weird, atonal, fuzzy, and structureless tunes of Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted. I had this strange feeling in my stomach — it was almost a physical shock to my senses — because the song contrasted so much with the classic rock albums that had defined my youth.
Yet there is one song in particular that is seared in my brain for its associative memories. And unlike those other whimsical examples, this recording is tied to two extremely defined and bizarre events.

For some strange synaptic reason, I’m still trying to figure out why every time I hear Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in The Rain” two things inevitably pop into my brain: Valentine’s Day and the movie Twins.

(And yes, I am referring to the 1988 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito as two diametrically-opposed humans, who, due to the wonders/horrors of science, happen to be genetically-designed twin brothers.)
I should probably delve into a little background on “Fool in the Rain” first. It was released in 1979 on In Through The Out Door, Led Zeppelin’s divisive eighth studio album that saw the band softening up its cock-rock roots in favor of a gentler, more symphonic sound. The best known tune from In Through The Out Door is probably “All My Love,” a song written in memory of lead singer Robert Plant’s son Karac, who died tragically from a stomach illness. That track features a lengthy synthesizer solo from multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones, which was a far cry from the chunky guitar riffs that permeated the band’s blues-soaked early albums.

Upon first listen, “Fool in the Rain” seems like a pretty benign song in the Led Zeppelin catalog, but it’s actually quite an oddball number. It was the last single on the album, and it was never performed live in concert (although Plant did sing it onstage with Pearl Jam in 2005). And unlike their other tracks, which are either highly-sexualized and exploitative or meandering in Tolkien-inspired fantasies, “Fool in the Rain” is a pretty straightforward paean to lost love. It could almost be considered cute.

The main gist is that the narrator is heartbroken because his lover has not met up at their designated tryst spot. At the end of the recording, he has an “a ha” moment when he realizes that he’s been waiting on the wrong street block — hence the song’s “Fool in the Rain” title — but at least he knows he wasn’t ditched.
I don’t listen to Led Zeppelin much anymore, so before I wrote this story, it had been years since I’d heard “Fool in the Rain.” Even so, as soon as I pressed play, those memories came racing back.

It’s hard to explain exactly what comes to mind when I think of Valentine’s Day. I guess the most immediate memory is getting a bunch of gummy bear hearts from my girlfriend when I was in fourth grade. That was a pretty special Valentine’s Day because it was essentially the only time of the year when I talked to my 11-year-old significant other (most of our communication was done through intermediaries.) How that ties into “Fool in the Rain” is anybody’s guess though.

And Twins, that forgettable film that I barely remember the plot to invariably pops in my head when I hear the song, too. Do you remember that Devito and Schwarzenegger wore goofy white suits in the film? Because I do. It’s an image seared in my brain for some reason.

Since this is such an inexplicable connection, I’ve done some research on these seemingly-unrelated topics, and I might have come up with a very thin theory on what prompted the uncanny trifecta of “Fool in the Rain,” Twins, and Valentine’s Day.

Wikipedia tells me that Twins came out on December 9, 1988. I was only six at the time, so my memory is certainly fallible, but something tells me that I saw that film in the movie theater (maybe a babysitter took me?). Because I lived in the pop culture nether regions of Maine, films typically arrived in theaters a good six weeks after they were screened for the rest of the American public.

Is there a chance I saw Twins in the movie theater on or near Valentine’s Day? That would be a good two months after the film was released, which is a long time to wait for a throwaway comedy caper, but Maine didn’t have a whole lot of cinematic options at that time. And, to finalize this triangulation, was it possible that I heard “Fool in the Rain” on the way to see this film? Could that explain this odd tale of incongruent cultural bedmates?

Possibly, but unless anyone has a roster of all the films that Maine Coast Cinemas played in 1989, I’m probably shit out of luck on proving that theory.

Music is a strange beast. It takes you down unpredictable paths and recalls unexpected moments. I doubt I’ll ever solve the mystery of “Fool in the Rain,” but I might just watch Twins tonight in twisted solidarity. Anyone got an old VCR I can borrow? 

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